About Communication – Seven Steps

Congratulations! You have hired a virtual assistant (VA). Unfortunately, not every relationship is perfect. Once the honeymoon period is over, well, let’s just say there may be bumps in the road, at times. Let’s call it opportunity for effective communication.

Maybe you assigned a task, and it was not done according to your expectations. You may believe that you were clear in defining the scope of the project. However, somehow the VA missed something when you described the project. Something seems to have fallen through the cracks. Perhaps you were vague about what you wanted. Regardless what the reason, the probable result was that you walked away dissatisfied and the VA was frustrated.

These types of scenarios create friction in the business/VA relationship, and resentment can build on both sides. Often this can be avoided just by implementing good communication techniques to avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Communication is vital to any relationship, and a business/VA relationship is no different. Here are some suggestions to practice in your VA relationship.

1. Communicate Clearly

Define the project scope, when it is due, what the end product should include, what skills you believe must be included, and agreed dates and times for project follow up and discussion. If either party cannot accommodate nor can keep scheduled time, there should be immediate communication.

2. Be Available

Make sure your VA can reach you for questions that could hang up your project.

3. Consider Productivity

Every project should have pulse points. You and your VA should decide when these pulse points need to take place before the contract is signed. You don’t want to interrupt your VA’s workflow. Remember wasted time is wasted money.

4. Communication Tools

Regardless if it is texting, instant messaging, video conferencing (Skype, Oovoo), email, or telephone calls, discuss with your VA what method will work best for both of you. Notice that voicemail is not listed here? Speaking with an individual, especially virtually face-to-face, is most effective due to words, tonality, voice inflection, and body language. Whatever is discussed, follow it up with a written form of communication outlining the discussion.

5. Address Issues Promptly

Problem areas should be discussed as soon as they arise, so as not to stage any surprises. The longer either side waits to talk about a setback, the more frustrated both sides will be. Consider the matter carefully, yet be reasonable when tracking the project. It is fair to expect accuracy, but everyone makes an occasional blunder. It is when the oversights, on the part of the VA, become repetitive that there may be a predicament. Write down the areas of concern in bullet format, this will help you Remain single-minded during your discussion. Stick to the facts, and support the specifics with documentation. Guard against sputtering blind examples, you want to present everything professionally. During the discussion, remain calm, and again, provide specific examples of the errors you discuss.


6. Listen

Give your VA opportunity to discuss the problem resolution. Communication is a two way street. Whatever the trouble spot may be, it can be fixed. You should note here that the final proofreading of any project is usually the responsibility of the client. As the business owner you always want to take personal responsibility for the project results. Your VA may be an expert in their skill set, but that doesn’t mean they are an expert in your industry, nor are they flawless.

7. Project Management

Respectfully talk with your VA about task management, and what has worked for you in the past. Most VA’s, whom I know, want nothing more than to make their client’s happy. Likewise, business owners tend to work best with support staff that have the same professional practices as they do. The best way to learn those is to talk about them.

Conclusion

Communication can make or break any relationship. Good communication practices will enhance efficiency, simply by defining expectations step-by-step. However, failure to implement these practices will most likely: impede productivity, thwart accuracy, frustrate the relationship, hamper each side’s credibility, and result in unfavorable pressure. Neither you, nor your VA, want to operate under those negative conditions.

Once you recognize that your communication method is not meeting a favorable outcome for you or your VA, consider the methods of communication you use. Learn to implement what works best for both of you. Try not to operate in denial. Rather approach the issues factually, with supported documentation. View it as an opportunity to not only enhance the relationship, but establish good working habits for both of you. Even if both of you decide to end the professional relationship, end it on a positive note. The key word here is “professional.” After all, like any relationship, there is nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree. It is how you handle the disagreement that will define the end results.

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